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The 2014 Ukraine crisis

In November 2013 the Ukrainian government of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, decided not to sign a planned Association Agreement with the European Union and demonstrations ensued in the capital Kyiv. The ‘Euromaidan’ demonstrations turned violent in early 2014 and, in February that year, some European foreign ministers mediated a compromise, involving a unity government and early elections.

After the collapse of a power-sharing agreement on 22 February 2014, President Yanukovych disappeared from Ukraine and a new government was installed by the Ukrainian parliament.

Later that month unidentified military figures, widely thought in the West to be Russian personnel (this was later confirmed), surrounded the airports in Crimea, a majority-Russian peninsula in Ukraine and the Crimean autonomous assembly was taken over by pro-Russian forces. In March 2014 a declaration of independence was issued by the assembly and a subsequent referendum on union with Russia was held.

Since then, Russia has maintained its control over Crimea and supported pro-Russian separatist forces who also took control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine (the Donbas) in 2014.

Fighting between Russian-supported separatists and Ukrainian government forces has continued in the Donbas for the last eight years despite the negotiation of the Minsk Agreements in 2014/2015 which called for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of all foreign armed groups and constitutional reform recognising the special status of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Current conflict

On 24 February 2022 Russia launched military action in Ukraine, with forces crossing into the country from Belarus in the north, Russia in the east and Crimea in the south.

President Putin said it was a “special military operation” intended to protect the people of the Donbas and to “demilitarise and denazify Ukraine”. He denied that Russia planned to occupy Ukrainian territory or to “impose anything on anyone by force”.

For the last year Russian forces have, however, been conducting a full-scale assault on the country. In early October 2022 Russia signed annexation treaties recognising Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as part of the Russian Federation, even though those regions are not totally under Russian control.

Ukraine, with Western military assistance, has been conducting a major counteroffensive and has made territorial gains.

Both sides are now preparing for new spring offensives. Ukraine has vowed to retake all its sovereign territory, including Crimea which was annexed by Russia in 2014. The Kremlin has said that the annexed regions will be with Russia forever.

Protracted conflict therefore appears the most likely outcome unless both sides can be persuaded to return to the negotiating table.

This reading list provides links to Commons Library papers, Committee reports, parliamentary material and UK Government press releases since 2014.

This paper will be regularly updated as the crisis continues.

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